Note: I made a pretty major screwup with the original article, throwing Horacio Ramirez in the wrong pile because I was reading the wrong player’s information. Thanks to 50poundhead for correcting me. The entry is edited to discuss Ramirez; I think that the major point still stands.
(Erupting from the comments and a debate between me and Robert. If you don’t know, the Braves rely heavily upon high schoolers early in the draft… and almost none of them since Chipper Jones has been worth a damn.)
The average ML career is about six seasons. So you need four major leaguers per season just to replace retirees and guys who just can’t cut it anymore. If you can’t get it through the draft you either better have a great international development strategy or a whole lot of money. And you’ll have to be either very smart or very rich to get away with going an entire decade without a productive major leaguer with your first round pick.
If you have ten picks in the first ten rounds, and ten years, you’d expect more out of the drafts 1991-2000 — the first ten years of the Scheurholz Era — than Jason Schmidt and a few marginal players. But that’s pretty much the record of the Braves in that decade. The Braves have done okay because they’ve drafted well in the late rounds and because of their international signings. Prominent players developed by the Braves signed in the 1991-2003 period:
Giles: Late pick.
Furcal: International Free Agent.
IFA Fifth round pick.
Damian Moss: IFA
Odalis Perez: IFA
John Rocker: Mid-round draft pick.
Kevin Millwood: Mid-round pick.
Kerry Ligtenberg: Independent League.
Andruw Jones: IFA
Jermaine Dye: Mid-round pick.
Jason Schmidt: Eighth round pick.
That list is most of the quality players developed by the team: most everyone who’s become a regular in Bobby Cox’s second term (Chipper, Lopez and Klesko were already in the organization), plus Dye and Schmidt who came up with the Braves but became stars for other teams. For these purposes, a high pick is anything before the 11th round, a mid-round pick from 11 to 25, a late pick 26 on. The Braves have had one high pick, out of 90-100, become a good major leaguer with a significant career. Even that’s almost a stretch; an eighth-rounder is outside the “replacement area” of four players a year. Horacio Ramirez might make it two, but you could have said the same thing about Jason Marquis two years ago. The Braves’ development record is much better with international free agents.
Stretch a little, and you could add Jason Marquis, who was a high pick. But, in summary, the Braves’ draft record in the 1990s was a miserable failure: one All-Star level player taken in the first ten rounds, and that one traded away just as he was getting started. The players drafted by the Scheurholz regime on the current roster are:
Jason Marquis: 1st round in 1996. Playing his way out of town.
Ryan Langerhans: 3rd round in 1998. A marginal player whose upside is “good fourth outfielder”.
Horacio Ramirez: 5th round. Had a solid rookie year, has great stuff, but the peripherals are troubling.
Mike Hessman: 15th round in 1996. Wes Helms, Jr.
Mark DeRosa: 7th round (out of college) in 1996. Utility infielder.
Trey Hodges: 17th round (out of college) in 2000. Might be good.
Marcus Giles: 53rd round, drafted as an organizational player, All-Star.
The Braves have managed to stay on top because of (a) their continued ability to come up with good players from the international ranks, (b) the long tenures with the team of excellent players drafted or acquired by the Cox front office (Glavine, Chipper, Smoltz, Javy; Klesko and Blauser to a lesser degree), and (c) the signing of Greg Maddux as a free agent in 1993.
Maybe Adam Wainwright will reverse the trend. He looks great so far. Maybe Marquis will find himself. I haven’t even completely given up on Belisle yet, though the Braves have. But as it stands right now, only one high pick, Horacio Ramirez, seems to have really panned out, and that only for a year. No really high (first four rounds) Braves draft pick from the Scheurholz regime has significantly contributed to the major league club.